This weekend I attended the U2 360 concert at Qwest Field in Seattle Washington. In the stadium were at least seven other good friends dispersed among the crowd but I had only bought one ticket and attended alone. I was surrounded by strangers. What I noticed at this conference were so many people drinking to the point of inebriation. I know, I know, people want to escape for a night of music and sunshine, escaping the pressures of the world. Alcohol and drugs are an easy way to temporarily access that escape. Do they know what they missed though?
That was the crowd. What bothered me was what unfolded in the connection to the people right next to me. I was in a small collection of seats and those sitting around me quickly started to visit. The woman sitting right next to me was a chef and we began to chat about many things. She was very interesting and we enjoyed each others company as we waiting for the show to begin. At that point she was fully present. We had connected. I was excited to read her blog and find out how she was impacting the world with her art and culinary life. I even felt safe enough to leave my bag with this group of former strangers as I went to use the restroom.
While standing in the restroom line I started to notice how drunk most of the men were. Our conversations were predictably one sided. What I did not expect was what happened next though. As I sat back down in my section I noticed my new friend was adding a couple of glugs of vodka to their lemonade cup. Now just to be honest I was sipping away at a beer I had just bought. While I had a single drink for the entire evening, my new friends downed several of these vodka lemonades. As the show began and progressed I noticed that the connections we had made slowly were replaced by a wall of intoxication. The person who had just earlier shared her passions and delight in her work was now an uninhibited drunk. The human bond of friendship we had started was replaced with alcohol induced inhibitions. She made judgement calls and statements that seemed so different from the person I had just met.
Sadly, I felt more alone than when I had first arrived. The show went on and the performance was amazing. I reminded myself that I had come here to see the band not to connect with people. Really I can’t help my self though.
We all numb ourselves in some way to the world around us. Be it the cookie, tv, alcohol or narcotic, they all help us escape the dragons that seem beyond our abilities to navigate. What is sacrificed though? For me that night it was friendship.
As I walked to my car after the show I noticed how much more present I felt. I called a good friend who was also leaving the show with his wife. We made plans to grab a lite night meal before my long drive home. As I waited for them to arrive at the dinner I looked around me at the people gathering. Many were coming off of shifts or stopping in after a night of dancing. Several had just attended the concert as well. Everyone was sober and present. The place was filled with laughter, conversation and friendship. Old relationships were going deeper and new ones were beginning. All the hardships in their lives were at that moment far and away.